Monthly Archives: December 2019

Saw this on a child’s helmet while waiting in the longest lift line so far this year:

I couldn’t help but wonder – this was a sticker on a ski helmet. So, the child would only be wearing it while skiing. So what would the child “rather be skiing” than doing – while wearing the helmet?

It’s like having a sign that says “I’d rather be in my living room” – on the wall in my living room.

Now, a case could be made that the sticker is actually saying “I’d rather be skiing [in] Montana” – however, the difference in font supports the convention of “make a statement, and then put the placename in a different font, to show where the sticker came from”.

(Besides – the child also had Whitefish and Big Mountain stickers on his* helmet; there’s no reason to assume that he skis anywhere else anyway).

Now, I could make a snarky remark here about “I’d rather be skiing than standing in this liftline…” – but the truth is that getting on the lift is part of the skiing experience, so I can’t make this make sense using that bit of sarcastic sophistry.

Speaking of helmets (and stickers) – see that vertical black strap, in the middle of the back of the helmet, that is holding the goggle strap in place? That one broke on my helmet a week or two ago. Now, it just so happens that I have a spare – it’s actually Silas’ helmet, which has only been worn a few times. And I could switch over to that helmet, but – doggone it! I’ve got lots of good stickers on that helmet!

But – just to stretch this out – my new parka has a hood that’s designed to go over the helmet, and so nobody sees my stickers anyway. So I might as well not have ’em.

Along those lines – yesterday, I came off some smallish jumps in the trees off of Black Bear. On both of these, I fell, and fell hard – and the second jump, I fell hard enough, and in such a direction, as to snap off an essential strap from my skiing backpack.

My helmet and parka I’ve had for ten years – I’ve had that K2 pack for twenty. And they quite literally don’t make backpacks like that anymore- that kind of durable material and hardware. The zippers on that pack are almost as big as my thumbnail. The fabric feels like somebody made canvas out of nylon.

So now I’ve lost** my parka, helmet, and backpack, in the space of a couple of weeks. It feels like my skiing life is being ripped away – all this while I’m skiing every day, and already have almost 400,000 feet of vertical for the year.


*I was not able to determine the child’s gender while behind him in line, so I finally got tired of saying “the child” and began using the masculine pronoun, which includes the indefinite.

**okay, I didn’t “lose” the parka. But Ethel got me a new one for Christmas. What am I going to do – not use the new one?

It’s late in the first quarter of the Peach Bowl – Oklahoma vs LSU.

We were watching, and rooting for Oklahoma. Now, our rule is to rule for Team, then State, then Division, then Conference – then, root for whomever is playing anOSU, USC, Oregon or Notre Dame.

But Jaylen is playing for Oklahoma, and that’s good enough*.


We love us some Jaylen Hurts. He has the most amazing character. We’d vote for him for Pope, and we don’t even know if he’s Catholic**. I’ve been working hard on my character for 34 years, and yet observing Jaylen makes me feel like a childish, selfish, cotton-headed ninny muggins.

Now, LSU is going to beat Oklahoma. I held out hope early – but one of the worst missed calls in my experience stopped OU’s second drive, and when I started typing this, the score was already 28-7 in LSU’s favor.

So I’m going to work on the Minuet in G until the Clemson/anOSU game starts in a few hours. Might as well. Can’t dance.



* There’s also the fact that the coach for LSU decided to go on a profane tirade against Alabama during his locker room speech. Hard to imagine Bear Bryant, or Bobby Bowden, or Nick Saban, or – heck, any coach that we admire acting like that. Not even Dabo would have done that.

**Of course, we’re not Catholic either – and, even if we were, we’re not Cardinals, and I think that only they can vote for Pope.

Ethel surprised me this Christmas, yet again.

This time, it was a Helly Hanson ski parka.


On the left is my old North Face parka, which I bought in Phoenix, ten years ago last month. On the right, the new HH.


Now, the new parka is amazing. As far as I can tell, it’s top of the line. It’s a stretchable, breathable waterproof fabric – who ever heard of such a thing? And it has a lot of features – a poopload of zippables. Stretchable powder skirt. It has built-in Recco – I can be found after an avalanche, even without a beacon. It even has a special phone pocket that’s designed to lengthen the battery life.

It has a hood that goes over my helmet, and a collar that fits tight enough underneath to make the whole deal airtight.

It’s just fantastic.

There’s only one problem – it’s not my old parka.

Wait – let me itemize. Here are the issues with the new parka:

1) It’s a whole new level of performance. However, I’m not a good enough skier to justify such a parka. So now, I have to learn to ski better, in order to be worthy of this superparka. (Sorta like last year, when Ethel bought me a Martin guitar. I felt competent to play my old Ovation, but I haven’t yet been good enough for the Martin).

2) It’s….ORANGE. Note the color of my North Face, above. Yes, that’s Crimson. Now, with my blue Spyder ski bib, I am a perfect color representative of THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA. Oh, the shame!

3) – and this is the big one – it’s not my old parka. My North Face is good for life. Yes, it’s got a lot of little problems, and yes, I haven’t gotten them fixed – I could have sent it back to North Face during any of the last five summers to get those things fixed, and it’s my fault that I didn’t. But now – I feel guilty wearing the new parka.

It’s my animism again – I believe that the North Face is a faithful retainer, and that it has served me well, and now, well, I’ve just abandoned it – seduced by stretchable fabric and snaps and buttons and zips. What does that say about me – about my character?

So now, I’m wearing the North Face shell to drive to and from the mountain, just so’s it won’t feel like it’s been put out to pasture. Eventually, I’ll have to have a talk with it; I’m not sure what I’ll say. (By rights, I should make Ethel have that conversation).

So, if you’re out on the mountain and you see a guilty Florida fan in fancy duds skiing bumps, that’s me.

When I stepped out of the Big Mountain Club van today for Dawn Patrol, this is what I saw outside the van door:


Yep, that’s right. Those are banana peels, on ice.

In a place where people are walking in ski boots.

Nope, can’t see any problem there. That should work just fine 🙂

…who, me? Well, the skiing this morning wasn’t great. It wasn’t awful, either, but this is Christmas week, and it sorta started getting the least bit crowded on the back side – nothing bad, but the skiing wasn’t good enough to stand in line for.

So I came home. Plenty to do at home. For one thing, I’m still working on the Minuet in G. In fact, I’m still working on the first page of the Minuet in G. I made a lot of progress yesterday, but today, it’s like I reverted to “Mr Can’t Minuet”. I can’t get my fingers to go to the right places, or maybe I’ve forgotten where they were supposed to go.

(editor’s note: I just fielded a Christmas question from Ethel, which required me to stand up and go to the door of the office; when walking back, I tried the first page of the Minuet again. Nope, I’m still not Christian Petzold).

This is my second week of “run M/W/F bike T/Th”. This morning went okay. I did have to add some small amount of lifting, because I don’t want to take a chance on knee troubles, and it seems to me that skiing is just the sort of thing that could cause the sort of strength imbalances that would cause knee troubles. But that leaves me a bit more tired. Seems like everything in my life is a trade-off.

The condo went under contract yesterday; it’s supposed to close on January 24th. That takes one variable out of the retirement equation. At the same time, I’ve now spent all of my pre-tax war chest on cost overruns on the house and the load of two mortgages, two HOAs and paying for staging, so now – as of next month – I actually start drawing on my retirement savings.

I have to admit that that’s a little scary.*

Okay, now I have to get back up and start working on the Minuet again. I’ve stalled as long as I could while typing this up. DAH dah dah dah dah DAH – dah dah…

*yes, I know that there’s a Step for that. I’m doing it.

Ethel just ordered a sort-of-Christmas gift for me – a Casio Privia PX-770.


I reckon I must be committed to this piano thing. That’s a substantial investment for a retired guy.

I still can’t make the Minuet in G work, but Jenny and I worked on some practice tips yesterday, and now at least I believe that it will work before too long.

She ordered it from Sweetwater – the same place that she got my Martin, last year.

…the truth is, that my commitment for piano lessons for the year actually cost more than this piano. But I had to chase bad money with good – or is it the other way around? – so I reckon I’ll keep practicing.

Now, it seems silly to think that I could ever actually, really, play the piano. I’ve been playing guitar for almost fifty years, but I’ve never been a guitarist. And I’ve been plunking on the banjo on and off for fifteen years, but I’ve never been a….a banjoist.

(funny – my spellchecker didn’t freak out about that word. maybe it’s real)

But, hey, it’s silly to think that a fellow from Flat Red Clay, Alabama, could ever be a skier – but I seem to be doing a pretty good imitation of one, every day, on a real, sho-nuff ski hill.

If I can ski, I can play piano.

Or, if I can’t, Ethel just wasted some money 🙂


Here’s the view today, from the island in our kitchen:


It seems that, for most of my ego life – the life I lived before I got sober – nothing was as good as I thought, or hoped it would be. My mind would set up expectations, and then my mind would decide that whatever happened had come up short.

When we bought this lot, we had hopes that the view from the house would be great.

The view is just as good as we hoped it would be 🙂

I’m retired, in a ski town, and – just like I’d always hoped – I’m skiing every day. And it’s just as good as I’d hoped it would be 🙂

So many things in my life – that I wanted, or looked forward to – are as good as I’d hoped that they would be.

But those things that God brought me, out of left field, surprising and blindsiding – those are oh, so much better than I could have imagined.

I’m married to one of those. My sober life is one of those. Whitefish is one of those.

“When we look back, we realize that the things which happened to us when we placed ourselves in God’s hands were better than anything we could have planned”.

“Better” is better than “as good as” 🙂

I was listening to Virginia by the Gin Blossoms at the gym the other day.


When Robin sang the bridge, and led up to Scotty’s guitar solo, I had to hit Replay quickly – there’s just so much joy in that part of the song!

I don’t mind Replay. An awful lot of my life is Replay.

Currently, I’m rereading Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger. It’s at least the third time that I’ve read this book. This is after having just reread Without Remorse and Cardinal of the Kremlin.

I’ve read through all of the Jack Reachers a few times, and I’ll probably do it again before I read the new one that just came out.

I watch the same movies over and over. Currently, at the Dog House, it’s Christmas season, which means we’re working through our Christmas movies. Last night was “White Christmas”.

But, also, we’re currently working our way through Buffy. In fact, right now we’re in Season Six, which is the “heavy slog through the emotional wreckage of watching the Scoobies have to grow up” season.  So last night, before White Christmas, we watched “Doublemeat Palace”.

That was a pretty bad case of emotional whiplash – from the angst and hopelessness of fast food in Sunnydale, to the 151st Division showing up for the General just as the snow starts falling, all in the same evening. Ouch 🙂

I am currently skiing every day; and I’m skiing a lot of the same runs, over and over.

On Tuesdays, I ride Givens in Trainer Road while hooked up to Zwift to get my mileage and speed; on Thursdays, I do the same thing with Eichorn.

I reckon that I’m just not chasing variety.

I know people who complain of boredom; I don’t believe in boredom. I stopped believing in boredom one day while watching Maia, the world’s smartest Malamute, laying on the snow in our back yard, looking around.

She wasn’t seeking distractions or excitement. She was just looking around.

I realized that there is no such thing as boredom; there’s only angst, in an environment with no distractions to keep one from facing the angst.

So the best way to deal with that is to face, and get rid of, the fears and the demands; then, one can sit quietly, without distraction. No boredom; no hurry; no getting jerked around by trying to avoid the stuff going on inside of me.

I’m okay with the same thing, over and over again. If it was good last time, it’ll probably be fine the next.


So yesterday morning, I found out that I was like #6 on the mountain, out of all the skiers, in terms of how much vertical I’d already skied this year.

That had my brain going, and yesterday I skied way too much. Now, understand, consciously, I said “I’m not going to get caught up in that”. A lot of folks actually DO – and they ski fast laps on fast blue cruisers, just to get their name at the top of the list.

I am not going to do that. I just kept skiing trees and bumps; I was not going to play that game.

However, I did find myself playing that game, even under the intention of not letting it affect how and where I skied. And I wound up skiing about 30,000 feet yesterday, all hard skiing in powder, on steep black slopes.

This left me exhausted – and unable to do all of the stuff that I had planned to do when I finished skiing. In fact, I missed my regular Thursday night meeting. I was flat horizontal on the couch after all of that hard-working vertical. And decided not to do my Friday morning swim, because I was so tired.

Then I found out that those runs had no registered, because that side of the mountain was offline yesterday – and I found myself disappointed 🙂 Man, please – it’s amazing how I can be dishonest with myself.

So I told on myself this morning to Ethel, and we laughed about it 🙂

This morning, I got to the Big Mountain Club, and folks there were telling me – “Hey, you’re #3 on the vert list!” (apparently the offline stuff finally got uploaded).


I chose to hold to my previous position. I made my morning meeting, and skied, and made my noon meeting, and I’m getting all of that stuff done that I should have done yesterday.

I need to remember that my only “goal” for this ski season is to ski 100 days while continuing to train, at whatever level, for triathlon. And to not let those intentions keep me from doing the things that I’m supposed to be doing anyway.

Last night, we finished up Disc Two of Season Six.


These two episodes – “Once More, with Feeling” and “Tabula Rasa”, are remarkable – in two different ways.

For one thing, they are both wonderful and lively. Joss generally follows a light episode with a darker, or stronger, one; in this case, he gives us two that (generally) make us smile.

And let me be plain spoken here – when I say “wonderful and lively”, that pleasant compliment really only applies to the second one; “Once More, with Feeling” is the best episode of anything, ever.

That sounds like the sort of thing that a fifteen year old might say about something he just found that’s “really cool”; but this was the ninth or tenth time that I’ve seen it (it’s my eighth time through the series, but I’ve watched this one a time or two by itself).

OMwF is a punch in the gut while being covered with goosebumps; it’s crying with pathos while laughing hysterically while tapping one’s feet; it’s amazement at perfection in writing and production while enjoying the range of talent and skill of the individual actors.

And when I say “tapping one’s feet” – this is a musical episode. All of the characters sing and dance, and do so very, very well. And each of the numbers – and there are a lot of them – comes from a different musical style, so the range of songs is dizzying and rejuvenating – but every so often, one of the singers will be reprising an earlier number in a duet with the current number, so it all works, and all works together.

And it all forces the various story arcs along just marvelously.

I can’t say enough about OMwF, so I’ll stop now.

Tabula Rasa, on the other hand, is a pure comedic tour de force; it’s a natural delight. The setup is natural, and it moves from hilarity to hilarity…until it doesn’t.

Because, at the end of TR, we’ve entered the darkness.

Season Six is like a gauntlet; I know going into it that I’m going to have to watch everybody hurt. It’s been said that the “Big Bad” in Season Six is life itself, and that’s very true; all of the characters have great suffering, and the viewer has to suffer along with them.

And all of the flaws and situations involved in the suffering are set up at the end of Tabula Rasa – Giles is leaving. Dawn is stealing. Willow is deep into her magical addiction, and she and Tara have broken up. Xander’s terror at getting married is coming to the forefront while Anya’s dependency on him deepens.

And Buffy has begun her destructive relationship with Spike.

It’s like Joss is saying, with these two episodes in rapid succession – “Okay, folks. Hope you enjoyed these episodes, because now – THE FUN IS OVER!”

One might wonder, since I know how painful the rest of the season is, just why I’ll go ahead and watch it. And the only answer I can give is this – if they have to go through it, then I have to go through it with them.

That’s what Joss Whedon does. He makes you care.

Sometimes, too much.

Today I spent most of the day skiing Marmot Trees up high, and then hitting the blue cruisers down to Lift Seven.

Marmot Trees was in good shape:


We’ve been in a pattern where the top of the mountain is in the clouds, and then 500 feet down it clears out. So I’ve been skiing the trees up high, because they attenuate the fog; in addition, the fog tends to keep the snow in the trees soft, so it’s like synergy.

I find myself starting to think in terms of vertical, and that’s probably not a good thing. Today I skiied; the only times I stopped were in the trees when nature called. I just kept skiing.

Tomorrow I get to start my workouts again; we’ll see how interested I am in covering a lot of vertical while I’m running, biking and swimming. “Want to know what I want? Just watch what I do”.